Today, those who fondly recall this archetypal 1950's family sitcom may be surprised to learn that when the series debuted in 1954, the show did so poorly in the ratings that CBS canceled it in March of 1955. A flood of protests came from viewers insisting that the show be reinstated. The show was moved to an earlier time, and it gradually became a hit.
The show began on radio in 1949 and was then produced for television by Eugene B. Rodney and star Robert Young. The show ran for 6 years, eventually airing original episodes on NBC and CBS. Both CBS and later, ABC continued to air reruns as late as 1967.
Series star Lauren Chapin, who played the youngest daughter Kathy said she found out the show was canceled for good when she reported to work and the guard would not let her into the studio. She later learned that the show's cancellation was due to the fact that Elinor Donahue, now married, was pregnant, and Billy Gray's marijuana use.
The show took place in the town of Springfield. Even though they never specified the exact state in which the town was located, several times, characters mentioned Altoona, an actual city in Pennsylvania.
The NBC radio series on which the show was based had Jim being somewhat clumsy and slow-witted, often getting himself into embarrassing scrapes. On the TV version he's a lot wiser and makes far, far fewer mistakes.
When the sitcom first aired in 1949 on NBC radio at 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, it was sponsored by Maxwell House. When the series moved from NBC radio to CBS television in October 1954, Robert Young was the only member of the radio cast to make the transition to the TV sitcom adaptation.
Friday, November 22nd, 1963, when New Yorkers first witnessed breaking news of John F. Kennedy's assassination over WABC-TV, a rerun of "Father Knows Best" was interrupted to make way for the unfolding news coverage.